Post-Sachar, expert panel frames a diversity index

Cithara Paul, August 11, 2008

New Delhi, August 10: Suggesting that a diversity index-based incentive and disincentive system is “more flexible¶ than the reservation system, an expert committee appointed by the Government to develop a Diversity Index (DI) and work out its modalities for its implementation has submitted its report.

 The Government had set up the committee as a follow up to the Sachar Commission report, which had exposed definite evidence of community-based discrimination and deprivation in all social spheres. The new DI proposed by the expert committee would now form the basis for providing incentives for better representation in educational institutions, work places and living spaces.

“An incentive structure can, and should be, built into the system so that those making efforts to meet the goal of increasing diversity are rewarded. Similarly, a system of disincentives should be devised so that institutions that do not make adequate effort to increase diversity are penalised. We believe that this approach has greater flexibility than the system of reservations,¶ the committee said in its report.

Mooting the concept of “a transparent and acceptable method to measure diversity¶, the EC, headed by Professor Amitabh Kundu, member, National Statistical Mission, has listed out various incentive proposals to ensure equal opportunity to all social groups in social spheres.

Giving prime focus to education, the expert committee has suggested giving incentives in the form of larger grants to those educational institutions that have higher diversity and are able to sustain it over time. These incentives can apply to both colleges and universities, both in public and private sector.

The next area of attention is the job sector. Here, the committee says that incentives should be provided to public and private sector enterprises and institutions to encourage diversity at work force. “While such initiatives should be a part of the corporate social responsibility, some affirmative action may help initiate this process, the report said.

Another area of attention is the housing sector where the panel has recommended incentives to builders for housing complexes that have more ‘diverse’ residents’ population to promote ‘composite living spaces’ for ‘socio-religious communities’.

Asking the Central and state governments to start designing an incentive system linked to the DI, the panel has suggested that the existing system of devolution can incorporate it as an additional criterion and even allocation of special funds can be based on this.

On the operationalisation of the DI, the panel said that the DI for an institution might be constructed by classifying the (a) workers and (b) recipients of services into a few broad grades, representing vertical hierarchy.

“The diversity indices computed for workers and recipients of services for any institution under consideration must be squared and added up for each social dimension (religion, caste and gender). The final composite DI for an institution would be worked out by obtaining a weighted average of the three indices,¶ the report said.

According to the expert group, the responsibility of suggesting meaningful ranges of the DI for identifying diversity categories must be given to appropriate organisations at national and state levels. And based on this, institutions should be put in to three categories — those with “low diversity, mid diversity and high diversity¶.

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